UN rights council releases list of Israeli settlement firms

UN rights council releases list of Israeli settlement firms
Palestinians clash with Israeli forces during a protest against President Donald Trump's Mideast initiative in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plans to deliver a speech at the U.N. later in the day, but members will not be voting on a draft resolution. Palestinian officials denied the resolution had been pulled, but diplomats said many members, including European countries, rejected the language in a draft that had circulated. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed).

JERUSALEM (AP) — After repeated delays, the U.N. human rights office Wednesday released a list of more than 100 companies it says are operating in Israel’s West Bank settlements — a first ever attempt to name and shame businesses that has drawn fierce criticism from Israel and the U.S.

In its report, the office said the companies’ activities “raised particular human rights concerns.”

The list is dominated by Israeli companies, including banks and construction firms. But it also lists a number of international firms, including travel companies Airbnb, Expedia and TripAdvisor, tech giant Motorola, consumer food maker General Mills and construction and infrastructure companies including France’s Egis Rail and British company JC Bamford Excavators.

Over U.S. objections, the council in 2016 instructed the U.N.’s human rights office to create a “database” of companies deemed to be linked to or supportive of the settlements, which are considered illegal by the vast majority of the international community.

Israel’s foreign minister, Israel Katz, called the publication of the list a “shameful surrender” to countries and organizations that want to hurt Israel.

Israel has in the past condemned what it called the looming U.N. “blacklist.” It claims the settlements are built in disputed territory and says their status should be finalized in negotiations.

In recent weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to annex Israel’s more than 100 settlements in the West Bank, but under American pressure, he has put the plan on hold until after March 2 elections.

The rights council, which is made up of 47 governments, had never before requested such a list scrutinizing corporate activities.

The release of the report — a politically fraught document that could cast a shadow over firms doing business in Palestinian areas — has been repeatedly delayed.

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Keaten contributed reporting from Geneva.